On Becoming Baby Wise is a popular manual for new parents to train their babies. The friend that gave us our copy warned us to take everything in it with a grain of salt because the author is really hard core when it comes to discipline, regimenting baby’s schedule, and that kind of thing. We found much of the book helpful. So when we saw that there was a “Book 2” that dealt with issues beyond that first year, we began doing a little research.
You may remember a Christian book entitled Growing Kids God’s Way. Well it turns out the Baby Wise material is the same stuff from the same author, with most Christian references removed. The guiding principle seems to be that babies are born with an inherited sinful nature. And that is true.
The author, Gary Ezzo, builds his system around combatting that sinful nature, maybe even “de-programming” it. The tendencies we were told about and noticed in book 1 are exacerbated in book 2. The program is extremely legalistic and exacting and seems like it would lead to frustration for everybody – baby and parents.
Many experts express grave concern. Some of them, of course, disagree with the emphasis on sin. But they issue important warnings about many of the procedures recommended in the book, saying that children are asked and expected to do (or not do) things that they are not developmentally ready for, and are then punished when they fail. This article records a number of examples and quote questions and stories told on the BabyWise web forums that are frankly rather troubling.
What is more telling is that many Christian leaders are also opposed to Ezzo and his material. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, is among them. The Christian Reserach Institute (the organization of Hank Hannegraf, whose name I can’t spell), has a paper that examines Ezzo’s organization and teachings. Many have also noted that Ezzo’s program is heavy on legalism and punishment but nearly devoid of grace.
Lastly, and perhaps most significantly of all, Ezzo has fallen under the discipline of and has been subsequently removed from at least three churches, beginning with Grace Community Chuch in Sun Valley, California. John MacArthur, the pastor-teacher at Grace, issued a public statement about Ezzo due to these concerns.
Well apparently this is an old and well documented controversy, but its new to me. Again, there are good principles in these materials, but what we have learned has really concerned us. We won’t be buying the second book. Have you used Baby Wise (or Growing Kids God’s Way)? What has your experience been? What are its strengths and weaknesses?